Vancouver councillor wants to rezone West Point Grey for rental apartments

The NPA's Hector Bremner wants to rezone a 151-acre section of West Point Grey to allow for six-storey, rental-only apartment buildings. It would be a big change for a part of town filled with what Bremner calls "mandated mansions."

Motion would start consultation process to allow six-storey rental buildings among 'mandated mansions'

A Vancouver councillor wants to rezone part of West Point Grey, north of Fourth Avenue and west of Blanca Street, to allow for six-storey rental-only apartment buildings. Current zoning only allows for large single-family homes. (Google Maps)

Vancouver's West Point Grey is a neighbourhood known for large single-family houses on even larger lots — and for the exorbitant asking prices those properties now command.

The city's newest councillor is hoping to change that with a motion he's bringing to council on Tuesday.

The NPA's Hector Bremner wants to rezone a 151-acre section of the neighbourhood to allow for six-storey, rental-only apartment buildings. It would be a big change for a part of town filled with what Bremner calls "mandated mansions," many of which he says sit vacant and in disrepair, held as speculative investments.

"These are really large, football-field sized lots that are quite enormous," said Bremner, who was elected to council in October. "You're not allowed to subdivide them, and you're not allowed to do much of any density on them either."

"This 151 acres is extraordinarily underutilized."

'Mandated mansions'

The area in question sits in the northwest corner of Vancouver's West Side, bounded by Fourth Avenue to the south, Blanca Street to the east, Spanish Banks to the north and Pacific Spirit Park to the west, with the University Endowment Lands lying beyond that.

Current zoning for the area stipulates a minimum lot width of 150 feet, and forbids homes on lots smaller than 12,000 square feet. Bremner says homes in the area often sell for more than $20 million.

Bremner says the area's proximity to UBC also makes it a prime location for more rental housing.

"We have people, students, driving or using public transportation to get across the entire city to get to their school," he said. "I think they would like to have an option to live closer."

Bremner says his proposal has been met mostly with approval from area residents worried about housing affordability.

In an email, the West Point Grey Residents Association expressed concerns that the proposed motion could produce affordable housing given that "the land value is so high and increased density could even add
further inflationary pressure," and pointed out the huge strain on community amenities and resources.

Public consultation needed

Bremner's motion asks city staff to investigate the possibility of rezoning the area to allow for increased density. This would include months of research and public consultation. Bremner expects an actual rezoning vote likely wouldn't happen until the spring.

As currently written, the motion would require any multi-family units built in the area to be secured market rental housing, social housing or supportive housing for seniors — that is, not condos. It would also continue to allow single-family homes.

Bremner says West Point Grey is just one of many neighbourhoods for which the city should consider zoning changes.

"We've doubled in size over the last 25, 30 years, but 70 per cent of the city is still single-family detached homes," he said.

"I think across the entire city we need to think differently."